We would like to extend our warmest thanks to Nate Whittaker for writing an op-ed that connects the efforts of Whose Diversity? and the efforts of student activists before us, including those who took over Morrill Hall on May 4, 2005 to protest the closing of General College. Nate is a General College, CCE, and CEHD alumnus and founder of the General College Truth Movement. Our sit-in on February 9 was very much inspired by the efforts of the General College Truth Movement, and we are indebted to them for the resources and knowledge they left behind that allowed us to plan the sit-in and continue the struggle for a more just University. An edited version of his letter was published by the Minnesota Daily on February 24 and 25. We are excited to share the original version of his op-ed, after the cut.
It was a truly inspiring moment to be in the midst of so many supporters who came out for our arraignment on Tuesday, February 24th. We literally packed the courtroom! Your presence is proof that Whose Diversity? is more than an autonomous student collective, but a movement built upon the labor and love of those who imagine something better than the present moment. From those of you who contributed to our legal fund, spread the word about our events and mission, and woke up very early to attend our hearing, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We appreciate the work you have done in order to change the present conditions of our university, our society, and our world.
To clarify, the thirteen demonstrators who were arrested were all offered a deal from the Minneapolis City Attorney wherein our charges would dropped if we were not arrested for similar actions in the following year. While this deal might seem very good on the surface, it troubled many of the collective as it would put us under very close scrutiny and thus silence us by deterring us from protesting again for year. On top of that, if we violated the terms of this agreement, we would have to face this charge again on top of the new charge. However, in order to move on from this and focus our energy on continuing to work on our movement, we collectively decided to take the deal. We are thankful for this opportunity, but are still troubled by the University’s overall actions to have us arrested and jailed for demonstrating peacefully on our own campus. As we move forward, we hope that the administration will reflect on their actions and push toward more peaceful and egalitarian actions toward students who are working so hard for the more just and equitable campus climate that they were promised.
During the time between our sit-in and our court date, a number of changes have occurred in the University. First, Dean Coleman of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), announced the approval of four new faculty hires for the Race, Indigeneity, Gender, and Sexuality (RIGS) Consortium. Importantly, one of these faculty is to be appointed in Chicano and Latino Studies as a replacement for the former chair, Louis Mendoza who departed last May. Furthermore, yesterday, we saw some movement in how the administration is addressing the use of racial and complexion descriptors in UMPD crime alerts. While we feel that these are steps in the right direction, they do not meet our demands and are only crumbs. The decision to give four faculty to RIGS does not guarantee that Chicano and Latino Studies will receive any more faculty, and thus shows that the administration is not invested in seeing the department thrive. We need more faculty in Chicano and Latino Studies and also a commitment to re-employ the community outreach coordinator to full-time status. In terms of UMPD crime alerts, this reform does not adequately address concerns raised by students of color. According to the University’s own estimations, it would have been appropriate to use racial and complexion descriptors in approximately 70% of the crime alerts issued since 2012. In sum, these actions are not enough!
On the other hand, although we hesitate to take complete credit for the changes that have come to light in the last couple of weeks, we are upset that the University has completely erased and negated the role that Whose Diversity? and other student-led organizations have played in making both of these actions come to fruition. All statements from the University have pointed to the hard work and strategic planning of the administration as the impetus for the recent developments. We are not negating the fact that the administration has undoubtedly worked hard to make these things happen, but we simply disagree that our efforts and the efforts of campaigns such as Solidarity con Chicano and Latino Studies and Report the Crime Alerts had nothing to do with them because, in the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without demand.” We believe that it is ultimately the work of the community that made these and other changes possible.
While the invisible labor of Whose Diversity? and our committed supporters may go unrecognized and unappreciated by the University and other outside entities, we want you all to know that we see it, recognize it, and appreciate it. Your labor and love continues to fuel us in our work toward making this university a safer and more transformative place for students, staff, faculty, and, yes, the communities it is supposed to serve. Thank you all again for your support and for being with us in the movement. As Assata Shakur so boldly and beautifully reminds us, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
On the morning of February 25, Whose Diversity? received notice of a shift in the University’s policy regarding race and complexion descriptors in university crime alerts. A campus-wide emailfrom both President Kaler and Vice President Wheelock described new policies that will reduce the inclusion of race and complexion in crime alerts. Whose Diversity? is happy to see active engagement with the issue of racialized crime alerts from the administration, and knows that these first steps would not have been taken without the overwhelming support from the many communities in solidarity with the actions of the WD? collective. However, these reforms in crime alerts do not adequately address the concerns put forth by students of color. According to the campus-wide email, racial descriptors will only be utilized when there is sufficient information to identify a suspect. Yet Vice President Wheelock stated that, in approximately 70% of the cases examined since 2012, it has been appropriate to list the race or complexion of the suspect. As one organizer asked, “What does the administration consider to be ‘sufficient enough information’ when making choices jeopardizing the safety of students and community members of color?” Whose Diversity? believes these “changes” are merely bread crumbs meant to pacify dissent and halt further actions toward justice. The administration wishes to end the conversation here. But moderate concessions are not enough to ensure the safety of students of color on this campus, and Whose Diversity? will not stop calling for substantive change until justice is served.
Furthermore, the email received by the University community sent the message that the administration remains unconvinced that racial profiling has real and tangible consequences. Pamela Wheelock makes the distinction between whether the community issafe (referring to crime) and whether the community feelssafe (referring to racial profiling). But racism is coded, and the implicit message here is that the real and serious lack of safety for people of color on campus (especially that of Black men) is merely a perception. Whose Diversity? is gravely disappointed in this language because it ignores the reality that what Pamela Wheelock calls “feelings” leads to a Black person being killed by police every 28 hours in the United States. Members of Whose Diversity? ask, “Why does the administration think removing racial descriptors from only a third of crime alerts is sufficient, when racialized crime alerts feed a system that literally kills Black people daily in this country?” This is to say nothing of how constant threats to the safety of Black students impact their studies, mental health, and ability to graduate - racialized crime alerts have consequences far more pervasive and consequential than mere “feelings” in the lives of students of color. Racialized crime alerts put the psychological, academic, and physical survival of students of color on the line. It must be asked: how committed is the administration to truly ensuring that Black lives matter on this campus? On what side of history does the University administration want to be?
On the night of Tuesday, February 10th after a long and groggy day which I spent catching up on sleep given that I had spent the night in jail, I was informed by other members of Whose Diversity? that the Daily had published a problematic editorial. I was already in my pajamas and ready to fall asleep, but against my better judgement, I went to the Minnesota Daily’s page and looked for the editorial. Although I was tired, I was so enraged by what I had read that I spent the next hour writing the following editorial:
On Wednesday, February 11th at exactly 4:26, I received a call from Martin Jaakola. He quickly introduced himself as a member of the editorial staff at the daily, and when I asked him to spell his name and give me his contact information, he declined and said I could look it up as it was on the internet. Although I was uncomfortable talking to a reporter without their contact information, I didn’t push it. He indicated that he was calling me because he had some questions about my editorial, and I quickly agreed to answer them thinking that he would have some simple questions about its content or, perhaps naively, that he was calling to ask permission to eliminate a sentence here or there in order to publish it. He indicated that he was interested in publishing the editorial, but that he feared that I might be calling the Daily racist. As you have read, I never uttered the word “racist” or “white supremacist” in my editorial. In fact, I did no name calling, so I replied, “Well, technically no, but if the shoe fits…”
After that, Martin began to get more aggressive defending himself and by extension the Daily arguing that they were not in fact racist given that they have covered issues of diversity before and published things in favor of increasing diversity on campus not to mention articles on Whose Diversity?. I’m not sure what else went on in our conversation or even how long it went, but the last thing I remember is him wanting to ask me more questions. I agreed to do so, but only if he promised to publish my editorial in full without unnecessary alterations and that only if he allowed me to put him on speakerphone so that Khin and Bradford, two other Whose Diversity? members, and another student who happened to be in my office at the time could be witness to our conversation. Surprised to hear that there were other people with me at the time and seemingly angry at the fact that I had the gall to set my own agenda for the conversation, he declined my offer and quickly hung up.
Needless to say, this phone call left me livid. I was incredibly offended that someone from the Daily would call to question me, my thoughts, my writing, and in the end not even publish my editorial--to this date it has yet to be published. I was not aware that the Daily’s editorial staff was responsible for calling individual students who submitted work and asking them to defend their work only to belittle it later. This was an especially hurtful blow given the incredibly insulting editorial published by the Daily’s editorial staff the day after our sit in. It became clear to me that the Daily was absolutely not meant for me or students like--i.e. those who are fighting to end inequality on campus. It became clear to me that the Daily is set on deflecting any criticism of itself and its content. It became clear to me that the Daily didn’t care about my voice.
This became increasingly clear to me when I was able to have a second conversation with Martin. After some research on my phone, I was able to find Martin’s phone number, so I called him but since I was afraid he would not call back if he knew who I was, I left a voicemail with a pseudonym. When he called me back, I re-introduced myself, and I told him that I called because I wanted to be sure who he was so that I could report him and his activities to his supervisors. This time, he confidently stated his name and even spelled it out for me. He also smugly told me that he had already talked to his supervisors about our phone call and to assure them that he had not harassed me. My only reply at the time was “thank you,” but as soon as I hung up the phone, I realized how colonizing his words had been: he was telling me how I felt and what had happened and therefore completely disregarding my thoughts and feelings. To me, this was only one more indication that this newspaper is not for me, my thoughts, and my feelings. So, when I ask myself whose Daily (is it)? I know the answer all too well.
I always knew this university was not for me, and, to be honest, I was never confident in the Daily’s ability to represent marginalized voices. Yet, I always had hope. That hope is gone now. In a time and place where people of color are being silenced--through both physical and other forms of violence--it is important that we be able to speak because if we don’t our experiences will be made invisible. So, what does it say about a newspaper that refuses to let me and, by extension, all those who are marginalized do so? I could tell you the answer, but if you’ve read this far, I’m positive you--unlike the Daily--already know.
Whose Diversity? recognizes that meaningful changes on the University of Minnesota campus have only ever come from unapologetic acts of resistance. We remember the Morrill Hall Takeover of 1969 by the Afro-American Action Committee (AAAC) that established the African and African American Studies Department, the Martin Luther King Jr. Program, and the Black Student Union. We remember similar takeovers that established the Chicano Studies Department in 1971 and the Women's Studies Department later on. In the spirit of the Morrill Hall Takeovers and the ancestors and elders who inform our work today, Whose Diversity? continues the legacy of activism on campus.
Whose Diversity? recognizes the importance of inter-generational resistance, and we are more than grateful for the support of Ms. Rose Freeman Massey and Dr. Horace Huntley, President and Vice-President (respectively) of the 1969 AAAC.
Earlier this semester, we invited President Kaler and the UMN administration to a meeting at Brian Coyle that would include the voices of students, faculty, staff, and community members in a discussion regarding the demands we presented last spring. To our disappointment, the President would only agree to a meeting with ten representatives from our collective at a location on campus. Though we were wary of the administration's insistence on institutionalizing this dialogue, some of us felt it was necessary to exhaust all of our options so that we would not wonder "What if?" Copied below is the full transcript from our hour long conversation.
Kaler: Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming on a cold Minnesota day. Uhm, I appreciate the agenda that someone sent around and I think the first item was a round of introductions, so I understand that we’re being recorded, which is fine, so uhm, I’m Eric Kaler, I’m the president of the University of Minnesota.
Joanna: Thank you so much for having us. We’re glad to be here and know while … my name is Joanna, I’m a student here at the University, a graduate student in the Feminist Studies program. While this meeting is a welcome step in the right direction, we’re a little disappointed that it was held on campus and not with the rest of our members, but we welcome the opportunity to have this conversation. So we’ll go ahead and start our own introductions. Leah, do you wanna start?
Leah: Sure. I’m Leah, I study global studies, sustainability and social justice and am a member of Whose Diversity?
Soham: I’m Soham, ---
Shakeer Abdullah: I’m Shakeer Abdullah, I’m in the Office for Equity and Diversity here at the University of Minnesota.
Rahsaan: My name is Rahsaan Mahadeo, I’m a grad student in sociology.
Hoda: My name is Hoda, I’m a student [inaudible]
Brad: My name is Bradford Benner, I’m a 3rd year undergraduate in Urban Studies and Cultural Analysis.
Tanja: I’m Tanja Andic, I’m a sociology grad student.
Khin: I’m Khin, I’m an undergrad in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies
Zach: Zach Pierson, I’m a grad student in Curriculum and Instruction.
Matt: Matthew Aguilar-Champeau, I’m a student in sociology
Mario: My name is Mario [inaudible], PHD student in American Studies
Marco: Marco Cruz, I’m a student in Chicano/Latino Studies
Danita Brown-Young: Danita Brown-Young, Student Affairs
Emily Lawrence: Emily Lawrence, I work in the President’s (Bursar’s??) office
Kaler: Okay, so I think the first agenda item was faculty in Chicano and Latino studies and I think American Indian studies. Who wants to start?
Rahsaan: Before we actually jump into that agenda item, I just wanted to begin by appreciating you taking the time to meet with us and as we’ve talked about in many of our other sort of reports and notes we really conceive of diversity as a process. And what we mean by a process is not looking at diversity as a benchmark or an objective, something that has an end point, something that can be done, completed, or finished. We’re aware of today of this meeting and its constraints and parameters that are set around us that makes it difficult, I think, to have a conversation about diversity as being an ongoing process. So we just want to say that in moving forward with this meeting, we’re not looking at this as a “one and done” type thing, but more as an ongoing conversation. If we do engage in any type of substantive negotiation here today, and there are any concessions made to our demands, then we just want to make it clear that we are not looking at this as an end point, but that we do have multiple other demands, many other demands, that we feel need to be addressed in that long term process. We just wouldn’t want to send the wrong impression about what our stance is today, our position, our expectations for today’s meeting.
Kaler: Well, I think you know that I have invited many people to be part of the conversation on diversity. We cannot be an excellent institution without being a diverse institution, I think most of you have heard me say that. And it is a process, it’s everybody’s work every day to make this a better, more welcoming, more diverse community. And it is a community, it’s a community of students, of scholars, of staff, of faculty, and it’s a very white place and it needs to look a lot more like Minnesota looks and I’m eager to be part of that work, I’m eager for you to be part of that work, and I think we have some structures in place that help us move forward productively. I invite you to be part of that. I think, you know, more hands make a lighter lift and you clearly have passion around diversity -- I have passion around diversity as well, so I would look forward to the chance to be partners and not to throw demands at each other but to be partners and move forward to make this a better place. That’s how I come into this meeting.
Hoda: On that note, throwing demands, seems to you and your office -- without maybe meaning to, “throwing demands,” just that phrase, think about it, what it means.
Kaler: Mhm. And I ---
Hoda: These are things that are important, that affect our lives. For example, raciali-- the crime alerts, that can mean death or life for someone. And you look at it as “throwing demands.” Throwing demands. And, you know what, your scheduler, you know what she did, she said that, we wanted to talk to her about Brian Coyle, and you know, it’s not her fault, it’s more to do with you and the institution actually, she said that, “I’m afraid the president is going to be taken somewhere.”
Emily: That’s not what I said at all -- I was trying ---
Hoda: That is what you said.
Emily: I was trying to say that having the conversation off campus was not the tone we were hoping to set.
Hoda: Didn’t you travel just to Korea? South Korea?
Kaler: I travel frequently.
Hoda: Okay. You travel frequently but you won’t travel ten minutes to Brian Coyle.
Kaler: We have an agenda to move through some of these topics in a productive --
Hoda: Yeah, right.
Kaler: way, and we can have this conversation or we can
Hoda: But you control the agenda, right now you’re shifting the conversation.
Shakeer: Let me interject
Hoda: You have to address what we’re saying --
Shakeer: Hoda, excuse me, I’m gonna interject. The use of the word “demand” is just mirroring Rahsaan’s use of the word demand. And I don’t think that it’s to be confrontational
Hoda: He said, “throwing demands.”
Shakeer: Well, no,
Hoda: And next time you’re gonna say “I didn’t say that,” just like she said
Shakeer: But this is what Rahsaan just said, he just said “demands,” once we get through the demands, that’s not the end, and he used the same language, so why
Hoda: Yeah, but he added “throwing”
Shakeer: So throwing is pejorative?
Rahsaan: It’s adversarial, it’s the same sort of language we’re presented with
Kaler: And I apologize, I did not mean to make it adversarial. “Presenting demands.” I -- let’s, let’s move forward to something else.
Hoda: Yes, but we have to call you out on your BS, sorry.
Shakeer: Another thing, though, another thing to pay attention to is the desire to take this
Hoda: Actually, I’m not sorry. I have to call you out on your BS.
Shakeer: And you can call as you see fit, you have to also understand that you’ll be called out at the same time
Hoda: Yeah, sure
Shakeer: For you to demand a meeting outside of, off campus of our University community, doesn’t resonate with University officials because our community is on campus. Brian Coyle is not on campus. We’re talking about making changes
Hoda: But it’s not in Seoul. Is it in Seoul also?
Shakeer: Are we not --
Shakeer: Are we not building relationships and partnerships. We’re talking about campus climate, we are on this campus to have these conversations, so I think, I think that’s a fair response. And I think we have to be specific about what the issues are and not get caught up in minutae. I think meeting on campus versus off campus is minutae, it doesn’t speak to the issues that have been brought up by Whose Diversity? And that’s where I’m at on that.
Rahsaan: I think the majority of us would disagree -- our definition of community is more expansive. And also that the University’s definition of community is more expansive with an emphasis on public engagement, they know that what occurs on this campus is but a microcosm of larger systemic issues. So we know that racialized crime alerts are but a microcosm of larger structural racism that occurs in society. So I think it’s okay that we can agree to disagree maybe on our definitions of community, but I wouldn’t want us to be misrepresented as suggesting that our definition of community is solely within this isolated space. I think that we don’t agree.
Shakeer: And I agree with that, I just think that as we look at the demands, all of those demands are related to this specific campus community, not to the exclusion of other partners, but the demands speak specifically to things that are happening on our physical campus community, and that is where I’m coming from.
Joanna: Thank you. So maybe we can start on the first agenda item.
Kaler: So does someone want to articulate a concern and have me respond, or
Joanna: Marco will be discussing the hiring of faculty in the department of Chicano/Latino studies and the American Indian studies program immediately, due to recent losses. There was a meeting today with Dean Coleman and we are aware of the fact that in your response to our demands, you discussed how it’s not entirely up to you whether someone gets hired or not, and in this case Dean Coleman gave a definitive no to Chicano/Latino studies, earlier in the semester, telling them that they will not be getting a faculty member. I’ll let Marco expand on that. That was the same response given to the American Indian studies department.
Marco: Thank you, Joanna. To add on to that, Dean Coleman declined to hire, give permission, to hire more faculty. We can only see this as a deliberate attack on the department, given that it only has one full-time professor and he’s a junior professor. On top of that, we have a part-time outreach coordinator. And this affects in turn not only the Chicano/Latino department but also the other ethnic studies departments. American Indian studies in the coming years, faculty members will be retiring, and similarly they declined to do a search for the hire of more faculty. And so, we first and foremost, and this is nonnegotiable, we are looking for the stabilization of these departments as well as more hire in terms of faculty and staff.
Kaler: So I hear you, and I think that there’s a couple things at play here. The dean has many elements to sort through, he’s relatively new. I spoke to him just today about this issue, he indicated that he would continue conversations with the leaders of these departments, invite them to make proposals in the spring for faculty hires, for them to collaborate together to the degree that they can to build strength. These are unfortunately quite small departments, as you know and the dean has a challenging time sorting those demands. But again, I expect the process to run as it does and within the spring that the opportunities are there. The dean also encouraged the leaders to look outside the University for faculty who might be available from other institutions and I encouraged him to continue that. So, there’s a process that needs to move forward, faculty hire faculty, there’s a very rigorous process of interviewing and bringing the best scholars here, so at this point I am aware of the issue, I appreciate your concern, I’m concerned about it also, I will continue to encourage the dean to make that a priority as he lays out the future for CLA. We also have a strategic plan that’s new, that brings forward the need to look at grand challenges which we can only do with a diverse faculty and I am committed to making measurable improvements in the diversity of faculty and staff across our campus. That’s kind of where we are with this. Probably not completely the answer you would like to have, but, the process, I think that’s moving forward. We also have in American Indian studies strength in Morris and Duluth, which I feel could be leveraged to create something across the system that would realize more opportunities for American Indian studies.
Hoda: So will there be more faculty hires or not?
Kaler: The dean will work through that process, I can’t tell you the answer to that, he will work through the process as we go into the spring
Hoda: So will he try to hire faculty?
Kaler: Can I please finish my sentences? So, he will work through this as he sets priorities for the college. I would encourage you to talk to him and make these elements that are important to you important to him.
Marco: To return to that, how will you be encouraging him aside from the rhetoric?
Kaler: The budget process runs through the spring as we begin to allocate for the coming fiscal year, and I will encourage that to be a high enough priority to be funded in CLA.
Tanja: Is that something that you are behind, hiring more faculty in each of these departments?
Kaler: I am, and I’m being careful here because I don’t hire faculty, and the surest way to make sure that faculty don’t do what I want them to do is to tell them I’m hiring faculty in that area. Because there are many many competing needs across the university for those resources. So there needs to be the CLA conversation to say yes this is important. I’m gonna encourage that conversation, I’m gonna tell him it’s important to me and I’d like to see that outcome, but I cannot dictate to faculty who they hire.
Joanna: If I can add something, you said faculty hire faculty, but the faculty have been stepping up to ask for more hires and for a cluster hire and I think Rahsaan is going to speak about this more, but there is a consortium of faculty called RIGS that went forward to the dean and went forward to university administrators and proposed that there be a cluster hire of 70 faculty of color, at the least, and that idea was totally shot down. So while you say that faculty hire faculty, in the same way that we see ourselves as students of color and as students from historically marginalized backgrounds as not being listened to, we see that there is a small amount of people within this university who are determining what faculty get hired, and they’re not faculty of color and they’re not strengthening the ethnic studies departments.
Kaler: So let me tell you my experience of increasing the diversity of faculty, which I did when I was a dean at the University of Delaware. And I’m an engineer, so the dean of engineering, and diversity in engineering began simply with having gender diversity. We had far too few women in engineering. So what I did is, I said, when you bring forward a finalist pool of people you’re gonna bring to campus to interview, there has to be diversity in that pool. There have to be people of color or women. Once those broader pools came to campus, you know what happened? Women started to be hired. And that is the plan that the provost is articulating with the deans now for hiring across the university to bring in more diverse faculty. We can’t, I think it’s illegal, to say we’re going to hire seventy faculty of color. You can’t make a hiring decision based on the color of a person’s skin, that’s against the law in my understanding. But to drive diverse pools, be more vibrant and attractive to faculty candidates of color, not only in Chicano & Latino studies or American Indian studies, but across the university, that’s the key to making this a more diverse faculty. And I’m convinced that will work.
Hoda: What about just hiring faculty in ethnic departments?
Kaler: I think I answered that question. That’s a process that the dean will move forward, I’m gonna encourage him to make it a priority.
Hoda: In the mean time, students don’t have classes to take. In the meantime, there are professors, like one professor for a whole department which has a long history in the U of M
Kaler: It does, and it currently has 7 students.
Hoda: and it’s been increasi-- decreasing ever since. And what is the message? It’s not important, “competing interests,” whatever -- you just throw words here and there, and I don’t know
Shakeer: Hoda, one of the things that was discussed was a process, and I think one of the ways that Whose Diversity can help the university in the process is to identify
Hoda: Yeah, but it’s a process taking forever
Shakeer: I mean, if you can help us identify the superstars in Chicano Latino studies, American Indian studies, African and African American studies, because you’re doing this work, you’re doing this research, you know this research
Hoda: But we’re students, we’re here to study, why is it our job to hire faculty?
Shakeer: Because this is the process
Hoda: We’re stepping up more, more than necessary, more than necessary
Shakeer: This is how it has always worked, you can tell us who you want, you can tell us who’s leader in this field, who are the stars
Hoda: You know what, faculty members know better about who to hire
Shakeer: I think that’s a fallacy, students sometimes have this belief that faculty are experts in diversity and inclusion, where faculty are really experts in their own field, their own niche, and I think we can help -- students can help, I’m sorry -- by saying
Hoda: Why are you speaking for them? I mean, I appreciate --
Shakeer: I work for the university, you attend the university, you are part of this community, you’re part of this system
Hoda: I appreciate --
Shakeer: I work from within the system because this is my role, and I think
Hoda: No, I understand --
Shakeer: if we’re working to make change from within the system we have to
Hoda: I understand, but he’s shifting all of this on you, when it’s his job to answer us
Rahsaan: This isn’t very constructive -- maybe we could make this more constructive because we have a lot to get through. Brad did you want to say something
Brad: Yes, sorry to interrupt. Do you recall how the University of California hires it’s faculty? I can’t really speak for it, if anyone else knows how they recruit their faculty, it doesn’t seem like it’s based on the color of skin at all.
Kaler: Well I think that the legal constraints are pretty strong on this. You bring faculty candidates in and you make offers and try to hire the ones who you think will do the best scholarship and be the best teachers in a field, and all I’m saying is that my experience has been that if you make those pools larger and more diverse, diverse candidates are hired more frequently.
Joanna: If I could -- If Eden wants to introduce herself
Kaler: Oh, hi
Eden Torres: Hi. My name is Eden Torres, I’m a professor in GWSS and Chicano Latino Studies
Joanna: If I could add to that, you said, well, faculty hires can’t be specifically people of color, but in our demands we specify that when faculty be hired that they specialize in looking at social justice, that they specialize in issues of equity, within each of those fields, so if we’re looking at the field of engineering and you said that it needs to be diversified with women, if they’re specifically speaking and when you do that search for faculty, if you ask that those faculty speak to issues of social justice, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be faculty of color, but if they are aware of the ways in which racial inequality has factored into all of these issues across the university, it is most likely that they will be talking about the issues of diversity that we need. The other thing is that we are very committed to and that we understand as students coming from historically marginalized backgrounds is that the people coming from those backgrounds are often the experts on their lives, so surely some of those people who you hire, if the faculty search specified that they be leaders in that area, will be people of color. So there are ways for the university to find these people who will be speaking to these issues and who will be people of color without specifically saying that they must be applicants of color. And I think, it’s not to say -- this isn’t a way of being sneaky, or whatever, it’s just the reality that if the university were committed to looking for scholars who are leaders in those fields, that they will most likely find those leaders --
Kaler: I think, and I was perhaps not clear in your original document about this, we hire -- the university is organized into disciplines and the faculty in those disciplines hire the faculty in those disciplines, so hiring somebody with discipline expertise in physics, I don’t think carries with it that they’re also going to be active in cultural or other studies. I mean, those don’t seem to go together necessarily for me. That physicist could be a person of color and bring enrichment and diversity and that different background that that person has had, very much likely different than a white person or an Asian person, so you bring that collaterally, but I’m not sure how to require that in a job description.
Joanna: I mean, the fact that people in physics, for example we have an example of a student who is an incoming student who is a student in Architecture. The fact that architecture is not speaking about justice for example has driven that student out of that department. And so you say that, you know, that it might not necessarily be connected, but when a student who is a student in architecture and who sees herself in that field because she wants to make a difference in her community, in housing, doesn’t see any conversation happening in that department about social justice and about the realities of the lives of people of color, it is driving students not only out of those departments, but it is driving students out of this university. So we do see that connected. I know Rahsaan was going to speak about that, I don’t know if anyone else wanted to add. Eden, if you had anything else.
Rahsaan: I was just thinking along these same lines, for those of us that were at the rally today at Dean Coleman’s office, I know there was just this emphasis on students being experts in this process and you wanted to hear from students as experts, and I wanted to just give people that were with us this morning at the rally an opportunity to speak about whether those opportunities were foreclosed by the dean and the administration to actually have a student in the meeting with Jimmy Patino of Chicano studies and Dr. Eden Torres who were both there. From my understanding, I didn’t see any students allowed in that space to speak about their own biographies and how they’re intimately linked to the curriculum and scholarship. And so while the invitation is open, we can see that when actions happen, when opportunities present themselves, it seems like they’re foreclosed. Maybe for those of us that were there, unless I’m mistaken…
Eden: Well, we got word right before the meeting that [it was closed?? inaudible] and I had made an argument that other people in the department should come, so they were allowed. But it was very clear that student voices or community voices [were not allowed?? inaudible] I think on this topic of hiring, as someone who’s sat on these committees for many many many years, I think we have to acknowledge that certainly we have to follow the law and you can’t specify. But I think we have to acknowledge that there are these deep-seated notions of what scholarship is and what counts, that are very hard to tease out as the conversation starts taking place. I have seen it happen so many times where faculty who are on the committees know perfectly well how to read the vitaes of certain candidates and so in the case of architecture, if I saw someone’s vitae that they, that part of their dissertation research or part of what they were interested in studying, if it’s a grad student, is the effect of housing on certain communities, I mean there’s a way to read that in which you know that that person is someone that’s concerned with issues. Or if there’s a scientist who’s done some study on the effects of certain chemicals or environmental racism, there’s a certain way to read them, and everybody on the committee knows how to read that. I’ve been witness over, and over, and over again to conversations that begin with things like “well, I’m not sure that person is theoretically up to snuff on..”
Kaler: No, I’ve been in those conversations too, you’re right.
Eden: Yeah. So.
Kaler: But -- I’m sorry [go ahead]
Eden: I think we need to acknowledge that, and that we’re all reading those applications in certain ways and that often times people get weeded out, nobody says a word about race or ethnicity or gender or sexuality, nobody says a word about it, but everybody knows how to read the applications. Unless the committees have the kind of representation necessary to give someone who’s an excellent scholar a fair shot at that job, it will always come down to a vote against the person who doesn’t -- whose work does not fit what’s traditionally been there.
Kaler: Right. And so, if can, because I’ve been on those committees too, and so what I’m trying to do with the provost’s help is turn that around. Because if in fact you required there to be a diverse pool -- that’s required, you can’t continue with this search, try again next year, once those diverse candidates come, and I actually believe a group of white people can make a good decision around how to grow a diverse faculty, I really do, and so you bring candidates and you begin to see, this is an interesting person, this is a person that will bring dimensions to our department that are important. And you make a hiring decision and you get a more diverse community. Now, I am an optimistic person, but I believe that’s exactly what can happen ---
Eden: I would love to believe it, but I’ve seen the opposite.
Kaler: And I’ve seen the opposite happen [as well? rustling noise], but you haven’t seen the opposite happen with me as the president.
Joanna: And I think another thing that I wanted to add, that the incentive to hire a number of faculty of color at once is that, even when you do hire faculty of color, this university is a very white university and we have had faculty of color leave this university, it almost seems as though they are fleeing this university at the rate at which they are leaving, so it’s not enough to just have a faculty member in one department in a place in which the department itself is not valuing their work necessarily. It’s important that that be across the university and that those departments in which there is a large amount of diversity, that those departments be valued.
Kaler: I completely agree with you. And by growing these pools, by bringing more diverse candidates and ultimately more diverse faculty, then that community of faculty of color begins to be stronger and grows in an organic and I think sustainable way. That’s what I wanna have happen.
Shakeer: And I also want to point out that the office for Equity and Diversity is working to help build that community among faculty. Dr. Katrice Albert who is the vice president in the office for Equity and Diversity often hosts gatherings and gettogethers for faculty of color, for this very reason, to build that sense of community and to help encourage that sense of community, and in addition to that, we’ve got Michael Goad [sp?], who took over the position that -- I forgot his name -- (Louis Mendoza [sp?]) -- Louis Mendoza used to hold, doing the same work, continuing the same work, and making sure that faculty of color are engaged in research, and they’re supported with research dollars that they may not get from their traditional departments. And there’s also funding for some of these hires that you all have talked about, in terms of these partner hires and we’ve been strategic in trying to leverage that. But it goes back to the point that the departments need to create permanent dollars, because we just got short-term transitional dollars to support these hires.
Kaler: So, again, may I just say one other thing? So, and Shakeer alluded a little bit to it, another untapped resource we have is the Twin Cities business community. And Katrice has been part of a conversation with HR leaders from the large companies around the Twin Cities as ways to look at partner hires, spousal hires, to begin to again increase the base of the pyramid to build that community.
Rahsaan: The second agenda item -- we’re a little bit behind time for those that wanted to speak, if you wanna [inaudible] -- I’m happy to keep this brief, since we’re already on the topic of hiring faculty of color, and I think there’s a lot of questions that need to be raised and I think in the administration it’s important to wrestle with, what does it mean for there to be a mismatch for students of color and the professors that they learn from? What does it mean for there to be a mismatch between faculty of color and the students that they teach? And so, I don’t know what the administration’s position is, but I’m questioning how race -- does race matter in terms of a student/teacher relationship. And in our position, it really does. I think what you mentioned earlier professor, president Kaler, in terms of finding, having a group of white faculty or administrators that can make a strong decision around hiring faculty of color, I have some reservations about that, because as a student of race, I know that race is relational. Meaning that we understand ourselves by, in relation to other racial groups and I feel like it’s very problematic to have a group of all white faculty or all white administrators making decisions about the lived experiences that relate to the lived experiences of students of color, of faculty of color, without those voices of color being in the room to counter or to qualify some points that may be lost in translation. And so, that’s just a general point. I think as a collective we want to trust in your capacity, in your potential as a leader, as our president, to develop an empathetic understanding of our lived experiences as underrepresented students of color. We’d like to trust that. But, actions taken by -- actions that have occurred at this University have led us to conclude otherwise. Led us to do more questioning than instill confidence in that belief with regards to, for example, again the blanket decline on hires for ethnic studies, the lack of support to Chicano/Chicana studies, the closing of PSTL, the post-secondary teaching and learning program, what’s essentially the substitute for the general college, which served underrepresented, a lot of underrepresented students of color, students from [inaudible] communities, students from historically marginalized backgrounds, working families, working parents, a lot of the nontraditional students that this university is supposedly committed to having at this institution, so when these actions occur, we can’t help but feel as if we are rendered dispensible objects at this university and that our biographies aren’t taken seriously. Many of us, as underrepresented students of color, feel uncomfortable on this campus every single day and not just walking around the campus grounds. I’m talking about in the classrooms that are supposedly -- that are supposed to be conducive to our learning, to our educational development, and having professors that look like us makes a difference (Kaler: mhm) because historically we haven’t had professors that look like us. We have had professors that don’t match our biographies and that is for many students, many white students on this campus, that is the norm, that they don’t have to question that. But we would like to see more faculty, and we feel as president of this institution that you have some, I know you keep referencing the need to shift the conversation to the individual departments themselves, but we aren’t bureaucrats, we don’t speak that language, we don’t understand those loopholes, those mechanisms. So if you could speak to us in a way, as a president, as a central authority figure that also has executive decision-making powers, I feel like that’s something that we would expect you to -- at some point, you can take executive action, I feel, on some of these very important issues that reflect our racialized subjectivities.
Kaler: Well, I am aware of your lived experience. I have not lived your lived experience, and I celebrate the diversity that you all bring to campus, and I do understand and want there to be faculty that look like you. That is critical. And as I said in my opening comments, we’re not going to be an excellent university if we don’t have that kind of diversity. We need a diverse view in every dimension that diversity can exist. And I’m committed to moving that forward. We have a lot of things going on that help. But we have things that we [need to work on?? inaudible]. Which is why this is a good conversation. And we’ve sort of talked about the Chicano/Latino and American Indian studies thing and not in the interest of time, but I want to see from an executive, from a leader point of view, a measurable movement in an increase of diversity of our faculty and staff. And I don’t know how to say it any more plainly than that. I’ll say it in public and I will hold the provost, deans and chairs accountable for making that happen.
Tanja: Would you be willing to send out an email?
Kaler: I’ve sent quite a few emails but I can send
Tanja: Sort of like the big public ones
Kaler: Well, the trouble with the big public ones is that nobody seems to open big public ones, but I will -- We have a working group… So I’ll give you the context around which we’ll do that. So, we have a campus climate working group that has a draft report that identifies things we’re doing, we’re doing -- we’re even doing well, and areas that we need to improve. So in the context of that sort of substantive report, I will say in public what I just said. I’ve said it in my inauguration [??] speech, I’ve said it in my state of the university speech in March, and I’ll say it again. And I mean it.
Joanna: I think going off of what Rahsaan is saying is that, we started this conversation early last year, or early this year in March. And since then we don’t feel like there has been a marked movement away from this idea of celebrating diversity and actually working towards it in hiring faculty and increasing the number of students of color that are on this campus. So, this year we saw, for example, the week-long celebration of diversity on this campus and while we feel like that was kind of in response to bringing up this issue of diversity on campus, we question whether putting resources and time into that, you know, if that was possible, why isn’t that more is being done to actually support the departments that are doing this work already, alone, like we said. The Chicano studies department had a community engagement, a person that specializes in doing community outreach, and that position alone -- you know, perhaps the professor leaving Chicano studies was unforeseen, but having a cut specifically done to one of the members that are already a part of their staff seemed very deliberate. So while we have on the one side the university trying to increase its profile as a diverse university, and then faculty and staff who matter to these, to sustaining students of color on this campus, being cut, it’s just a mismatch. And, again, I think it’s important to recognize that that mismatch becomes clear every time, again and again, for students of color on this campus. And the fact that, again, we still have racialized crime alerts, so there are still reminders that may not be a direct -- that, while we have celebration, we have these reminders that are very much a part of our reality.
Kaler: No, I understand, I hear you, and you know, to go to the PSTL cut, which is again, you know, I hear about when Dean Quam made that decision. My understanding is that the programming will continue, the faculty members will be in different departments now. That, and I will agree with you that that looks like a step away from diversity from the access that was in the old General College, but the old General College structure we can debate whether or not that served diverse populations. The graduation rate for the General College was I think something like 20 percent. I’m not seeped in that history, that was a while ago, but my understanding is that the PSTL programs will continue and I intend to have a conversation with Dean Quam about what that structure looks like going forward.
Hoda: According to [inaudible], it was 1 percent less than CLA’s graduation rate.
Kaler: In General College?
Hoda: Yes. And she’s a professor [there??]
Eden: And part of the reason for that is because many of the students transferred into CLA or another college out of General College.
Kaler: Those were days in which the overall graduation rate was not something to be [inaudible] proud of in any case.
Eden: But what I’m saying is that their lower rate of graduation had to do with somewhat with some of the students from General College transferring into CLA.
Kaler: Yeah, I understand, I understand. And, you know, I’m not gonna debate the history because I wasn’t --
Hoda: So why wasn’t CLA closed? And General College was closed, since you said, both of them are not -- both of them had very low rates
Kaler: Well, what we’ve done across the university is dramatically improve graduation rates in all of our colleges. The four year degree graduation rate this year is a tiny bit above 60 percent, which is pretty good.
Joanna: Do we want to continue with another agenda item so that we can move forward?
Kaler: I would like to talk about the crime alerts.
Brad: Yes, thank you. If you don’t mind, I will be wearing this hat. President Kaler,
You may recall last year a lockdown in which an attempted armed robbery took place on the West Bank. The university sent texts and emails describing the suspect as a black male in a puffy black jacket, age 20 and six feet tall. This is what I was wearing during the lockdown: After the lockdown I left to Coffman Union where my friends rumored that the suspect was now on the East Bank, showing a photograph on their phones. He was shortly thereafter cleared of wrongdoing. If I were standing at the bus stop waiting for my ride home, I should wonder whether my fellow students would have looked at me with fear or the UMPD would have taken me in for questioning. Dr. President, if you are serious about making this school safe and welcoming to students of color, your administration will put an end to racialized crime alerts. Although campus police may not engage in racial profiling, your emails encourage students to do just that.
Kaler: So I had a very good conversation with Clem Dabney and Dane Verret a week or two ago on this subject. And they were impressive and articulate on this. They brought data which I’ve reviewed carefully. We’re having conversations, I’m having a meeting with Vice President Wheelock this week and she will communicate with Chief Hestness. I am very unconvinced of the value of racial descriptors in crime reports. I do respect the expertise of our law enforcement individuals and of other public safety professionals that we have, so I’m gonna consult with them. But, I think the stigma, if I could use that word, associated with “black male” in these crime reports far outweighs any law enforcement benefit. There are places to go that do not eliminate a person’s description from a crime report, but I think the “black male” descriptor carries far more damaging baggage than it does help for prevention.
Kaler: So basically I agree with you. You’re maybe speechless because I do, but I get it. I really do.
Tanja: It is really refreshing to hear that. We [came here also?? inaudible] prepared with data, [inaudible] --
Kaler: No, yeah there’s the 28 hour statistic that’s out, which is, you know, there’s plenty of argument on both sides, there’s 28 hours, and who’s included in those statistics. But I read ‘em. And after talking to Clem and Dane, you know, when you read that, when I try to put myself in your shoes reading that, it’s not good.
Tanja: And it also contributes to an overall campus climate of sort of, fear, and insecurity [inaudible] -- where especially black men are something to be scared of.
Kaler: And in fact, do you feel safe walking around this campus at night? [to Brad]
Kaler: Do you? [to Rahsaan]
[silence -- Rahsaan shakes head no]
Kaler: And you shouldn’t [or should?? Affirmative/validating of Rahsaan’s response.]
Rahsaan: But my fear is not of [inaudible], my fear is the police
Kaler: Mhm. And I’ve gone on a couple ride-arounds with the police and I came to conversations with them. They don’t racial profile. They do profile behavior. And they’re professionals. But as I said, I think that the added value of the black male descriptor is very very small. But as I said, I’m gonna consult with the professionals that we have, and if we don’t change that, you will know the reasons why.
Tanja: I think our concern often isn’t -- we know that the police will have racial descriptors. But sending them out to a university campus, especially considering all of the very unjustified violence against young black men by both police officers and not police officers recently across the nation has been -- the racial descriptor just seems like [inaudible]. It inflames it. [inaudible]. This campus is overwhelmingly white, so it’s this fear of both police, sure, but also this kind of vigilante justice where somebody is suddenly getting scared and attacking.
Kaler: And I think in a crime report situation -- so, to back up a minute. Why do the police issue a crime report? One, we’re required to by the Cleary act. Two, to alert people that a bad thing happened here. And maybe to have a witness come forward that saw something that might lead to an arrest. I think the third thing happens very very rarely. “A bad thing happened here” doesn’t need to follow a racial descriptor. And there are intermediate things to do, there’s, there’s what’s called “complexion based description,” which I think is what Macalester uses now and has used it for a couple years. So you could say someone has dark skin or light skin. That when you read it is different, in my view, than “black male.”
Tanja: I think there should be further research on this. Because we do know when somebody reads a crime alert, immediately after the fact they seem to associate black people more broadly with criminality.
Kaler: Absolutely. I mean I don’t know that to be true, but I believe it to be true.
Tanja: The data shows it.
Kaler: I believe it.
Tanja: If you are thinking of switching it towards something else, I think there should be added study on it.
Tanja: Because, as you said, we don’t know what the actual value is.
Kaler: That’s it. At the end of the day, that’s it. You know, where are you showing value?
Leah: I think one rift that I see and have seen since we’ve started having these conversations amongst ourselves last year was that we can see that you, you have a great public platform and you say, “yes, I agree with you on this. There shouldn’t be crime alerts, there should be --
Kaler: No, there should be crime alerts --
Leah: Or, I’m sorry --
Kaler: there shouldn’t be racial descriptors
Leah: That’s what I meant, there shouldn’t be racialized crime alerts. There shouldn’t, ah -- there should be more faculty of color hired. There should be, you know [inaudible, recording device moved] -- priority [of increasing diversity of staff??] But the disconnect comes when we don’t see any action. And you give us, you’ve given us, when you responded to our demands originally, you gave us many examples of the things that you’re doing. As we reference in our letter that we then responded more recently with. And I think it’s, it creates a sense of distrust when we hear that you are supportive of these things, but nothing happens.
Kaler: So a couple of -- yeah, that’s fair, -- so a couple of things. First off, faculty hiring occurs on a calendar. You know, you get permission in the fall, you send out -- I mean the spring, you send out activity advertisements in the summer, you usually interview candidates at professional meetings which are in the fall, you generate a short-list, you bring those candidates to the campus in the spring, you make the hiring offer and then they start in the next fall. So then they take a post-doc and they come a year from now. So the time scale in faculty hiring is really long. So you can’t turn a switch and say, okay, here you go, number one. Number two, we are doing a lot of things here, and I don’t expect you, given the sort of way you wanna communicate, to endorse what we’re doing, but we’re doing a lot of things. We get it, I get it, my deans get it. But I think you will, over time, see improvement. But that time for faculty hiring takes a long time.
Hoda: So have you started that process yet?
Joanna: On the issue of crime alerts, when do you expect to have a change, a marked change?
Kaler: I would hope by the end of the year, if not before.
Tanja: Like 2014?
Kaler: Like 2014. I mean, this is one I…
Tanja: And will you be there demonstrating with us if Chicano and Latino studies department does not get any faculty by the end of next year?
Kaler: I think I have more leverage on that than I would have by demonstrating.
Joanna: But would, for example, a public letter of support for the Chicano studies department, would in itself speak volumes. I mean, we realize that you’re constrained, and we understand that, but we also see ways in which you could be making your support for these issues much more public. And so, when you use sometimes this language, that makes it seem, you know -- We understand that you’re in a position that’s a difficult position, but
Kaler: To shortcut you a little bit, I work within the system. So in some sense, the system comes to me, so I work within that. But I will do that in conversation with the provost and the dean. I would say on the student of color issue, we put in place a program called President’s emerging scholars which provides additional scholarship help for low-income students which are disproportionately students of color and first-generation. And that’s improved our first to second year retention rate for students of color. That’s a technical detail, but it matters, because those students aren’t gonna graduate if they don’t come back for the second year, and we’ve helped them come back for a second year more effectively. So we are doing something.
Brad: I kinda wanna hold you to something. You say this will take time, and in two years, will we see more diverse faculty?
Kaler: I think it will take two or three years to begin to see the dial move. Just because of the time it takes, and because of -- to your point -- the attitudinal -- I mean, when I did this the first year as dean, insisted on a diverse pool, I had department chairs that said, Nah, we couldn’t find any women, so this is what we got. And I had to send two of them back, not one, slow learners, two, before they realized I was serious. And so that will happen here.
Brad: And also, if the administration works with the system, then who’s in charge?
Kaler: I am.
Hoda: So, like, you know when you said faculty hiring takes a long time -- okay, it takes a long time, fine. And you’ve been president since 2011, right? So you’ve been president since 2011, and I think your views haven’t changed. What you’re saying now is probably what you have said in 2011. And so right there, there’s three years, right?
Kaler: Three and a half.
Hoda: Okay, so what have you been doing, why aren’t you starting the faculty process, why haven’t you talked to the deans so they can start the process? And if not, if you did not do that, fine. That’s okay. Start now.
Kaler: So, again, and I understand you’re people eager for action, I don’t blame you for that. So you come as a president to an institution. What’s the first thing you have to do? First thing you have to do is assemble the team of senior leaders. So I needed to find a new provost, I needed to find a new vice president for Equity and Diversity, I needed to find a variety of senior people. We had deans to hire. That takes time.
Hoda: So you’re busy hiring administration. Okay, fine. Are you gonna start the process with the faculty, or tell the people who are in charge to start their process?
Kaler: We’re doing that now. The provost is having the conversations with deans.
Hoda: Okay, fair enough.
Joanna: Rahsaan, do we have a final…
Rahsaan: We had one other agenda item. I realize we may be very close to going over time. I don’t know if you would permit us to go a bit over time, but I wanted to give one of our core members an opportunity for [inaudible] for one last agenda item, possibly. If that’s possible...
Kaler: Sure, if we...short question, short answer.
Khin: Yeah, it’s short. So, last spring one of our demands, we asked that the university require all students to take at least one ethnic studies course offered in one of the three ethnic studies departments. And we know that you wrote back that there’s the Diversity and Social Justice theme. [inaudible] ...students are only required to take four of five themes, so it seems like a bit of an issue that a student could graduate without taking [inaudible] a social justice class. Also, the theme can be fulfilled by classes from non-ethnic studies departments, like anthropology or art history, English, geography--
Leah: You can take rock and roll history.
Khin: Yeah, so it just sort of, like, sends a message that it’s possible to study ethnic studies without ethnic studies departments. So, this requirement, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. This October UCLA, their faculty approved a diversity class requirement, so--
Kaler: And, and, so again, you won’t like this answer either. But the faculty own the curriculum, so the only thing that would make them not hire faculty faster is if I tell them to, and I also will not change courses if I told them to. That’s a bit of an overstatement, but the faculty own the curriculum. So, two points. One is we have a new strategic plan that involves a grand challenge curriculum and building coursework around grand challenges, so it’s easy to see how a diversity and social justice theme could be infused in that. Number two is students are required to take four of the five themed areas, and, in my view, there are three of those themed areas that talk about justice and-and equality and societal behaviors. So you can’t get through without--you might not take the Diversity and Social Justice one, but the other two whose names escape me right now do have elements there. I also think you can learn about diversity without having to take a class in an ethnic studies department, so I think there are...now, I would not be a big fan of the history of rock and roll, that sounds a little lame to me. But that’s where we are, so I think you’ll see curricular revision. Faculty governance will vote on those, and the loopholes aren’t quite as big as you might imagine. You can avoid one, but you can’t avoid at least two of the three themes that have to do with social justice and societal behavior.
Shakeer: And I would also just give a little bit of pushback. My research is on the experiences of diversity services staff in higher education and one diversity course, if it’s required, does little to impact perceptions of diversity. In fact, one diversity course requirement is more harmful for students of color because they leave frustrated with no answers. It should be at least two, three, four diversity courses that are impactful and I think it’s hard to go from none to four or five to really impact the change that you’re wanting to see.
Joanna: But starting with one is not going to be harmful. I mean if you’re saying that students need to take more than that, starting by requiring one, how is that going to be more harmful or a step in the wrong direction?
Shakeer: I’m just showing the research, and the research says one is more harmful, because white students leave with no answers and a feeling of guilt and students of color leave frustrated. That’s just what the [inaudible].
Hoda: We should have four then.
Eden: This university actually was historically in the lead on this topic when it [inaudible] the cultural pluralism requirements, in which students had to take eight credits. All the courses at that point that met those requirements were in the ethnic studies departments. Our classes were overflowing; we couldn’t keep up. There was no way we could keep doing it unless we hired more faculty of color. But when that changed to a diversity requirement and it could be met anywhere, then students who were more comfortable taking it in other departments did that and it became a kind of diffuse thing. It was no longer about critical race study. Some of the things that had to do with social justice sort of disappeared from that formula. When you say that faculty own the curriculum, I kind of disagree with that. In some ways we own it but there are other ways in which we have to meet the CLE requirements, and in smaller departments you cannot exist with meeting those CLE requirements. And so someone else makes the decision on what counts for these various themes and requirements.
Kaler: For clarity, and then I do have to go. The faculty committee makes that. [Inaudible]
Eden: So that committee found that rock and roll met the-
Kaler: Right. And I think, I again will encourage this, partly because we have a proliferation [inaudible]. Faculty members can teach their particular speciality. Maybe that not ought to be a primary [inaudible]. Thanks for meeting with me.
Rahsaan: Just a reminder, if you’re interested, there’s still an open invitation to a community forum we’re having this Saturday from 12 to 1:30 at Brian Coyle.
Kaler: Thank you for that invitation.
Hoda: Are you willing to meet with us again?
Kaler: I think we can see. I think that plenty of structure and-[audio ends]
Dear Whose Diversity? Friends and Supporters,
As many of you know President Kaler has declined to meet with us at the Brian Coyle Community Center on any of the dates we proposed. He has instead asked us to engage in more institutionalized dialogue with him at his office. He has also tried to set the parameters of the meeting by limiting it to one hour and a maximum of 10 members from our collective. President Kaler declined our invitation to meet with us at Brian Coyle for the following reasons:
Given that the focus of the meeting relates to university matters, it should be held on university grounds.
Our response: President Kaler travels thousands of miles to meet with “fat cats” and plutocrats yet he can’t walk across the street to meet with university students. Last time I checked, we were supposed to be his top priority, not Mr. and Mrs. Money Bags.
A meeting off campus cannot ensure the President’s safety.
Our response: It would appear as if Kaler has fallen victim to the implications of his own racialized crime alerts. He appears fearful of racialized spaces and spatialized races.
We will be holding our community forum in spite of the President’s absence. We’ve confirmed the last of the three proposed dates:
Date and time: Saturday December 6, 2014 from 12-1:30 PM
Location: Brian Coyle Community Center
420 15th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454
Rather than be discouraged by his disinterest, we see this as an opportunity to rally our supporters around an action we are calling “Moral* March on Morrill.”
Your support in this process is vital. So tell a friend to tell a friend. We hope you will seriously consider lending your time and energy to this process that is larger than any one of us. We know that your lives are much larger than issues of diversity at the U, but at the same time these issues do make up enormous parts of our individual lives.
Members of Whose Diversity?
* We realize that the term “moral” may not sit well with some folks. You may ask, if we are “moral” than who or what is immoral? We are not attempting to suggest that Kaler or the administration is immoral. We do however know the difference between right and wrong. While we don’t endorse thinking in absolutes, we are convinced that the blanket refusal to fill faculty lines in ethnic studies, the recent closure of the Post-Secondary Teaching and Learning (PSTL) program, the continued lack of support for replacing faculty in Chican@ studies, racist parties and racialized crime alerts are wrong. We ask that you please refrain from getting too academic over our discourse. This is a community affair and our community extends well beyond the walls of the academy.
We are pleased to inform you that on November 7, we received a response from President Kaler regarding our request to hold a community forum regarding diversity and representation, or lack thereof, at our University. We’ve attached his letter for your review. As students from marginalized communities, we are disappointed that our president sees us as “adversarial." Rather than regarding us as a part of the campus community and as members of the student groups addressed, that portion of his letter dismisses our voices as hostile while positioning students from historically marginalized backgrounds as nontraditional outliers at this university. In spite of these reservations, we feel the President’s response bodes well for beginning the type of substantive dialogue required to address issues of diversity at the U.
Thank you for your letter and willingness to meet. Since last spring, through a variety of channels, other leaders and I have been clear that we feel a meeting would be the most constructive way to identify a shared agenda and path forward on the issues you are concerned with.
I would be happy to meet with members of your group at a mutually agreed upon time at a mutually agreed upon location. While I believe it is entirely appropriate for the meeting be held in my office, I will agree to a meeting elsewhere on campus at a mutually agreed upon location. I would also like us to work together to develop an agenda and determine the attendees. To this end, I would ask that you work with Emily Lawrence in my office. You may reach Emily at [omitted], and I’ve also asked her to reach out to you directly.
I do feel it appropriate to note that I am disappointed at the adversarial and divisive tone of your correspondence. The need to strengthen our university community and have respectful dialogue around issues on which we may disagree is fundamental both to our mission and to resolving those issues in a constructive way.
Vice President Albert, Vice Provost Brown Young, many other leaders and I all have made considerable effort to be proactive about improving the campus climate, advancing equity and diversity, and being responsive to you and many other stakeholders to which we are accountable. We may not have done everything you would like to see on the timeline that you would like to see it done, but it is disheartening that you discount our efforts to date and do not seem to recognize the various constraints – resource and otherwise – that we face in addressing these issues. Lastly, it’s important to note that you are one of many groups, and we are attempting—indeed it is our responsibility—to meet the needs of all, to the best of our ability.
Finally, in addition to working towards a constructive meeting together, I would again urge you to use the many existing outlets and processes to advance your concerns. I believe members of your group have attended the student campus climate world cafes this semester, thank you for that. You are welcome to also participate in Fridays at Noon, an opportunity for one student group a week to meet with leaders from the Office for Student Affairs and other administrators from across campus. The first of these meetings was hosted by the Asian American Student Union. Friday, November 7, staff will meet with Commuter Connections, and next Friday, November 14, Vice Provost Brown Young will meet with members of the Black Student Union. Again, these meetings will occur weekly through the remainder of the academic year. You can contact OSA for more information.
I look forward to our meeting.
Eric W. Kaler
Dear WD? community,
Thank you so much for your continued support for the efforts of the Whose Diversity? collective. We have been working hard over the past few months to build community and plan our next steps. We are ready to put these steps into action, and now we must call upon your help.
On Monday November 3, we delivered a letter to President Kaler and the administration inviting them to meet with Whose Diversity? off-campus at the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. We are hoping the administration will accept our invitation to engage in meaningful discussion about how the demands we made last semester can be implemented.
Because many of you endorsed our demands, we are hoping that you will seriously consider attending this forum. For this conversation to be fruitful, we need to demonstrate support from students, staff, faculty, alumni, youth, elders, community members - everyone who has a stake in creating a University that is safe, equitable, and inclusive for everyone. We need you to be there.
A copy of the letter we delivered to President Kaler has been attached to the end of this post. We were informed by his staff that he is out of the country until Friday, November 7. We have asked that his scheduling staff provide a response by our original deadline of November 7 and that President Kaler personally respond by Friday, November 14, 2014. We have informed him that if he does not respond or if he is unwilling to meet, we will take action.
Thank you again for all your support, in any form you are able to give, whether you have been attending meetings and giving us feedback or contributing to the language in our documents or spreading the word to friends, colleagues, and community members about the work that we do and the issues of diversity that pervade this campus. This work is only possible because there are so many amazing people in our communities who are dedicated to social justice and the struggle for a more inclusive university. We would be grateful if you read our letter to President Kaler and saved the dates for our community forum. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Members of Whose Diversity?
November 3, 2014
Dear President Kaler and members of the Office for Equity and Diversity administration,
On Wednesday, April 30, 2014 we issued a list of demands on the steps of the historic Morrill Hall to address the state of diversity at the University of Minnesota. On Thursday, May 8, 2014 President Kaler provided a response to these demands. Please accept the following as our reply.
President Kaler, in your response, you provided various examples of current University policies and programs relevant to the institutional changes we called for. While it is heartening to learn about the University’s ongoing commitment to issues of diversity on campus, we cannot help but acknowledge the discord between institutional rhetoric and the lived realities of historically marginalized groups on this campus. It’s flattering that you chose to quote our ideas around diversity as a “process.” However, we’re afraid that there may have been some pieces of this concept lost in translation. When we speak of diversity as a process, we are talking about an ongoing struggle to speak candidly about the way multiple dimensions of our identity including race, indigeneity, class, gender, sexuality, ability, religious/spiritual belief and citizenship intersect and inform our everyday experiences as students at a predominantly white institution rooted in middle-class values and beliefs. You appear to use “process” as an excuse to engage in dilatory tactics when addressing issues that condition our lived experiences as students. Appreciating diversity as a process does not mean you can take your time in addressing issues that have material consequences for underrepresented students at this University.
As students with limited time in our academic careers, “we are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” The state of diversity at the University of Minnesota remains in jeopardy. We do not have to look far for evidence of the mired state of diversity. It is no coincidence, that the recently released movie “Dear White People,” was filmed here on campus. The film’s directors clearly were not trying to cast for color when selecting extras. While predominantly white institutions are the norm in higher education, this is no excuse to dismiss the racial realities of underrepresented students and faculty of color.
A number of recent developments have only heightened our concerns about the University’s commitment to diversity. Despite the University’s attempts to appear more inclusive, we have witnessed the closing of the Post-Secondary Teaching and Learning (PSTL) program, a blanket refusal to search for faculty in ethnic studies departments, continued lack of support for replacing faculty in Chicana/o studies, and the continuing departure of faculty of color from the University. We see these recent and troubling developments as indicative of the University’s real agenda on diversity. We make demands because we have little time to wait. We make demands because we have already asked politely. We make demands because conventional and institutional channels through which we are encouraged to affect change have already been pursued, only to reveal further bureaucratic obstructions and administrative neglect.
We are now left questioning how to move forward in evoking a more sincere and substantive response from you. We should explain our past reluctance to meet with the President. President Kaler, your response foreclosed the possibility of any substantial dialogue over meaningful changes to the “campus climate” for students from historically marginalized communities by suggesting that existing initiatives and policies were adequately addressing issues of diversity. Furthermore, inviting us to meet with you and your staff on University grounds reinforces unequal power dynamics which will inevitably render us subordinate. We are seeking to facilitate this meeting on more equitable terms and avoid institutionalizing meaningful conversations about issues of diversity. We have seen and even participated in many of these conversations (e.g. Community Forum on “Academic Freedom” and “Civility”, Campus Climate-”Real Stories” forum), all of which failed to address issues of institutionalized oppression. These disappointing outcomes are exactly why we are demanding that this meeting be held on neutral grounds. While entertaining for some, our lengthy exchanges through various press outlets have proved unproductive. In short, we are tired of talking through external channels.
In meeting with you in person and off campus we expect to engage in a meaningful conversation about how we can truly commit to making campus more inclusive by realizing our demands. In other words, we expect to come to a resolution on how we can implement the demands. Therefore, at the end of this response, you will find an invitation to meet with us at the Brian Coyle Community Center. We hope that you will find this meeting place acceptable, and that you will honor the vision of your Strategic Plan by “build[ing] a culture of reciprocal engagement, capitalizing on our unique location.” We have also invited students, faculty, staff and community members to contribute to and witness this important conversation in which we all have a stake. We ask that you please respond by informing us which of the three dates and times work best for you. If these dates and times do not work, please provide some available dates and we will make accommodations. All potential meetings are expected to take place at the Brian Coyle Community Center (420 15th Avenue South)
Friday November 14 from 3:30-5 PM
Friday November 21 from 3:30-5 PM
Saturday December 6 from 12-1:30 PM
This letter has been made public through a press release. Please respond by November 7, 2014. We look forward to your response and the opportunity to witness the transformative changes we need at the University of Minnesota. In the event that you do not respond or are unwilling to meet, please be aware we will take action.